Ngam's Hong Thaimee: "Giving Up Is Not My Choice"

Categories: Chef Interviews

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Noah Fecks
You're working on a cookbook. Home cooks in this country often see Thai food as very exotic. How do you approach writing a book for someone who hasn't done this at home?
To be able to write a cookbook is such an honor. I take it very seriously; the message I'm giving is not for the sake of vanity. I'm giving my audience the opportunity to see me as a friend or sister. I'm introducing my culture and food through something simple. I conduct a cooking class once a month here. I'll do something, and people say, "Really? That's it?" Yeah. That's it. That's what I'm hoping to do in the cookbook.

Talk to me a little about your love of the markets.
I was in Thailand, and I got to know this market through my dad. It was a forager market. I thought, if I were to have a cookbook, I would want to talk about this forager market. I took my team there. It was so awesome. Just mindblowing. I hope we can share it soon, but you have to wait until spring 2015.

What are your thoughts on the review cycle?
If you want to work for the sake of getting good reviews, you are not going in the right direction. The reviewer is a pro; they do this everyday. They know.

Proudest moments?
I was on Iron Chef battling Bobby Flay. Being on that show is like, how did it happen? But I was cooking [at Ngam], and the server came back and said, "Table 30 wants to see you; it's a dad and his five-year-old son. He says he saw you on iron chef, and he wants to see you." So I go out and the dad says, "This is Chase. He saw you on Iron Chef. We were here on Sunday, and it was your day off. He begged me to come and see you again because he's your biggest fan." That was a beautiful moment for me.

What about goals?
Be a better person. I kid you not. I'm a very ambitious person. I left Thailand six years ago. But Mother Teresa talked about doing small things with great love. That's how I see it. It doesn't matter how successful I am -- life has its beauty. I focus on how can I be a better chef, how can I be a better boss, how can I be a better wife, how can I be a better friend. I let life take care of itself.

What about another restaurant?
Of course. It will happen when it happens. But I don't think I will stop here.

On the next page, Thaimee divulges favorite Thai dishes -- and where to get them.

Location Info

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Ngam

99 3rd Ave., New York, NY

Category: Restaurant

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